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Nigerian ports lead stowaway embarkations list in Africa

The Norway-based marine insurer and International Group Club, Gard, has listed Lagos ports and others in the continent as hot spots for stowaway embarkations, though with a relative decrease in the incidents.

According to the report, which also reviewed the International Group of P&I Clubs (IGP&I) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Global Integrated Shipping System (GISIS) data for the period 2013 to 2022, West African ports such as Lagos, Conakry, Dakar and Durban must still be treated as ports with a high risk of stowaways despite the decline.

The IMO GISIS data also revealed the top five countries of stowaway embarkation from 2018 to 2022 to include, Nigeria with 14 per cent, Morocco (13 per cent), Guinea (12 per cent), Tunisia (eight per cent), Senegal (seven per cent) and the rest of Africa (46 per cent).

Recall that 13 Nigerians had stowed away on a cargo vessel returning to Europe from Tin Can Island port, Lagos on September 7, 2022. Also, three migrants were found setting out from Lagos port on November 17, 2022, on a ship’s rudder in the Canary Islands.

In 2021, a 14-year-old Nigerian also stowed away from Lagos port on a ship’s rudder.

The report also disclosed that many North African countries have become major transit points for African and Arab migrants trying to reach Europe to escape war and poverty.

It stated that there is a clear upward trend in the number of incidents reported from the Maghreb region of North Africa, particularly from the port of Casablanca in Morocco and Rades/Tunis in Tunisia.

The report noted that the total number of stowaways involved has also decreased, but not at the same rate as the incident figures.

According to the report, this means that the number of stowaways per incident has been growing and the data will seem to suggest that the current average is close to three stowaways per incident.

“Whilst the total cost net of deductible including fines imposed by states on shipowners, has dropped, the cost per stowaway incident, as well as per stowaway, has risen. It is also important to note that the cost to shipowners is higher than that incurred by the Clubs as, in addition to their deductible, shipowners are likely to incur other costs, which are not insured,” it added.

On prevention of the act, the group said the core strategy is to ensure that no unauthorised persons could gain access to the ship, noting that all those who have been authorised to board, disembark before sailing.

“Proper access control relies on crew members who are adequately briefed about how the ship’s trading patterns affect the stowaway risk and the relevant security measures to be implemented. Once aboard, stowaways adversely affect crew wellbeing.

“Crew may have to work longer hours because they also must take care of the stowaways, the Master will have to spend more time on communicating and planning for disembarkation, possible deviations and in port arrangements – and certainly, there is a significant safety element,” the group stated.

The group also advised that in handling stowaways found onboard, with security in mind, they should be treated humanely including adequate food, water and medical treatment if required.

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